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SU-PRO-MEDIA | 02.07.2018 13:35 > 02.07 13:39

Special Education for NGO Sector and Independent Media

The government in Republika Srpska is about to pass a law on making the operation of non-profit organizations public, which will directly affect the non-government sector and, most of all, the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Serb entity that function thanks to foreign donations.
 
The goal of the law is quite clear – the government in Banjaluka wants to present the non-government organizations financed through foreign donations as foreign hirelings, i.e. traitors. At the same time the government proposing this Draconian, retrograde law is, according to its own self-perception, patriotic.
 
"Of course, those who are part of the authorities and are behind this process are patriots, while the non-government organizations are branded as foreign lackeys and traitors, although no proof for either of these claims is being offered", says blogger Srdjan Puhalo.
 
This pattern has been persisting in the Serb entity for quite a while on insistence of Milorad Dodik’s regime. The sending of the draft law to the RS Assembly for adoption by urgent procedure indicates that a "tangible enemy" should be found to be used in the upcoming election campaign.
 
"Essentially, all that this government is interested in is to keep things under control. That which is not under control poses a great problem, and that which is, is nauseating for the people who are under control", says editor in chief of the Buka (Noise) project Aleksandar Trifunovic.
 
According to the government, the "tangible enemy" is the NGO sector, as well as several news outlets, i.e. portals that reveal abnormal occurrences in our society.
"In fact, what is important is that through this white and black picture they are not only discrediting in every possible way the people they are calling foreign lackeys and traitors; they are disparaging not only their work but them as human beings. Thus any crazy fellow can approach you in the street and break your neck because someone from the government, the RS president or someone else, has labeled you as such", Puhalo stresses.
 
The draft law was sent to the Assembly for adoption by urgent procedure although the accompanying documentation says that the law was not applicable.
 
RS President Milorad Dodik said that the law will be passed by the end of summer, stressing that such a practice exists in numerous other countries.
 
"Nobody is preventing them from continuing to work, but the public has to have an insight into how they are funded and what they are doing", the SRNA agency quoted Dodik as saying on June 9 this year.
 
"The ones who have done the greatest damage to Republika Srpska are the current authorities. During more than 10 years of their absolutist rule they have managed to increase the entity’s debt by billions in foreign currency while accusing us of receiving foreign funds. The next generations will have to repay that debt, but they refuse even to stay in Republika Srpska; many are leaving", says Trifunovic.
 
The RS government has explained that the act has been drafted based on the same law existing in the U.S., which is not true. But what is very interesting is that the matter has reached Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Dodik, during an encounter in St. Petersburg, informed that, as he put it, activities are in progress on undermining Republika Srpska.
 
"I informed him [Putin] of many projects whose goal is to weaken Republika Srpska. I informed him of the enormous sums of money, primarily American money – 12 million dollars in assistance to news media and six million dollars to fend off the so-called Russian influence –are being invested for the purpose, which, when it comes to Bosnia, can only target us. When you add the British to that, who have a similar program, and many others whose programs are not that open, it tells volumes about how much money has been readied to destabilize Republika Srpska and bring to power obedient people who should change Republika Srpska and eventually obliterate it", Dodik said for RTRS, after meeting with Putin on May 25 in St. Petersburg.
 
It is true that assistance is arriving from the U.S. for the NGO sector and news media, but assistance is also going from the RS government to the NGOs and news media under their control, and the law will not pertain to them. It should be recalled that at the beginning of 2010. the Dodik government had given 14 million convertible marks to such news media.
 
"We have never seen a single report on how the people who were given that money, our money, used it and for what purpose", Trifunovic claims.
 
The story about the U.S. donations is, beyond doubt, a clumsy excuse for adopting the law in question, while the true reason is the government’s intention to shut up the few critical voices in Republika Srpska.
 
"Any time there is a public outcry or a protest, this argument is being resorted to, which is supposed to divert the public attention and lay the blame for what is happening on some foreign centers working behind the scenes. But what is actually going on are attempts to stifle any criticism", says Ivana Korajlic from Transparency International Bosnia and Herzegovina.
 
What is of particular interest is that Dodik told all this to Vladimir Putin, the president of a country that as far back as 2012 had passed a law requiring all NGOs receiving foreign financial aid to register as "foreign agents". In 2015, this law was amended to allow for the banning of all NGOs the Russian authorities and President Putin consider undesirable.
 
There is no doubt that Dodik shares Putin’s ambitions when it comes to the NGO sector, because the draft law stipulates that non-profit organizations are not allowed to be politically active.
 
"Any form of activity aiming at influencing public opinion, institutions and similar is defined in the draft as political activity, which is completely absurd. Any organization that is active in a certain area is working toward improving certain things and is trying to influence decision-making processes and inform the public. Thanks to this draft any form of activity can be interpreted as meant to influence public opinion", Korajlic explains.
 
The NGOs have also strongly protested against such a law which, by the way, was proposed by an unknown entity.
 
There is still more time and several assembly sessions left until the end of summer, by which time the law is supposed to be adopted according to what Dodik has announced. What is interesting is that the incumbent government suddenly stopped mentioning the law. The draft, however, is still in procedure, and if it is adopted, it will push society very far back and into a very dark period.
 
"I have no intention of asking anybody’s permission to work. In such conditions, if it becomes impossible to work and if I have to seek permission to think, I will not live here. I am saying that openly. I am not going to accept such kind of majority pressure. That would mean that I accept not to be free, that I accept to live in conditions much like those in which people were burned at the stake for exercising their right to free thought", Buka editor in chief Aleksandar Trifunovic concluded.

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